I freely admit that I was not a fan of the first Expendables film. However, I did enjoy the second film. And so I went and watched the third one. I know the film is out of theaters, but my brother told me that I needed to review something he recognized. So here is my review of The Expendables 3.
Warning: Some spoilers in the review
Synopsis: Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Statham) and company unexpectedly encounter Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson) during a mission. Stonebanks co-founded the original Expendables team with Barney. However, Stonebanks was eventually corrupted and became a ruthless arms trader. Barney was contracted to kill him years ago aand thought the mission was successful. After eluding death, Stonebanks has set out on a mission to permanently exterminate The Expendables. Barney has different plans and decides to fight old blood with new blood. Hence, he ushers in a new generation of Expendables team members, recruiting younger, faster and more tech-savvy individuals. Yet the old team is not ready to retire and the mission becomes a clash between old-school fighting and high-tech espionage. This is The Expendables’ most personal battle and they are not going down without a fight.
Review: I am not Sylverster Stallone’s greatest fan. My brothers have made me watch all the Rocky and Rambo films numerous times. While they are not my favorite, I respect Stallone for finding his niche and prospering. The Expendables is Stallone’s latest foray into the action movie genre. Unlike his previous franchises, The Expendables tends to be more tongue-in-cheek and less dramatic. Each installment manages to introduce numerous cameos from current and former action stars.
The Expendables 3 has more cameos than the other two installments. While these cameos are hilarious, they come at the expense of character development for the leads. None of the films have managed to give the characters any emotional depth. Instead they are all wise-cracking action caricatures. Which is fine, but I feel the series would be stronger if it had focused on character development over numerous 15-second cameos. Of course you can tell that everyone enjoyed poking fun at their past characters. My favorite cameo was Kelsey Grammer. Who knew that Frasier moonlighted as a talent recruiter for pseudo-military combat teams?
I liked the film; it was a solid action flick. I was under no illusions that it would be the next Citizen Kane. However, there were some things that bothered me. Because Barney decided to recruit a new team, the movie takes thirty minutes introducing each recruit. Now we have all these new people with even less background than the main characters. These hot shots go off on a mission to put their high-tech skills to good use. They do not succeed and the old team has to go save them using tried-and-true rough and tumble methods. The new team is not boring; all the characters have swagger and a healthy dose of arrogance. However, they are seriously impaired by the lack of backstory. The lack of development means the audience has no emotional attachment to the captured team. Even action films need at least one well-developed character to drive the plot forward. Unfortunately, The Expendables has yet to create one.
Unlike the previous two installments, this film at least has some semblance of emotional depth. The old versus new team conflict and Barney’s struggle to fire his old team gives the franchise some much needed development. This conflict also allows for an exploration into generation gaps, friendship, and unconventional families. I am glad Stallone and company decided to move the storyline along. While I enjoy watching a lot of things explode, the franchise would not stay successful without a compelling story to complement the explosions. I am aware that most people see these films just for the cameos and to watch things explode. As an action fan, I go for those reasons as well. But, as a film fan, I would also like some slightly more developed characters.
My last problem is that Stallone’s character is named Barney. I mean he goes from Robert “Rocky” Balboa (aka The Italian Stallion) to John Rambo to Barney Ross? Seems like a downgrade to me. Anyways, my complaints aside, The Expendables 3 is a solid action flick and the best installment in this franchise so far. And I know that I will continue to see all future Expendables films, even if they lack any comprehensible character development. If you enjoy action films with an inordinate number of explosions, this one is worth checking out.